Wednesday, June 13, 2007

James Akin laid to rest

For a few moments today, it was as if Army Sgt. James Akin hadn't been lost in combat but reborn, the parade of his brilliant life from wide-eyed toddler to military man captured in the many photographs on display at Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque.

It could have been a political rally, as posters bearing the words "James Akin for President" in red, white and blue were handed out en masse to the hundreds of well-wishers.

"He's just the kind of American, the kind of young man, the kind of soldier, the kind of Democrat that we were looking for," Lt. Gov. Diane Denish told the crowd.

"We're all here to cast our votes for this young man," Calvary Pastor Skip Heitzig said.

But the tears, the haunting violin music, the two soldiers standing vigil over Akin's flag-draped coffin brought back the harsh reality that another American son was gone.

Akin was one of four soldiers killed June 3 near Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded close to the Humvee he was driving.

He had been days away from turning 24, days away from returning from the war in Iraq.

" `When I get back, they better be ready,' " Akin's longtime friend and debate coach, Dave Poyer, read from a letter Akin wrote to him May 7. " `We're going to change this stuff.' "

Those who spoke at Akin's funeral today also echoed the life of a man who wanted to change "stuff," who wanted, as the posters handed out today suggested, to be president of the United States.

"He believed that he could be the president," said Denish, one of several Democratic dignitaries at today's services.

Akin, friends said, had a big personality that was hard to forget, walking into a crowded room and instantly creating an almost celebrity attraction.

"He was a force of nature," Poyer said.

Akin had been a volunteer for the state Democratic Party in 2000, working at various times on the campaigns of John Kelly, Gary King, Patricia Madrid, Denish and Gov. Bill Richardson.

"He was political. He was passionate," said his wife, Syreeta Akin of Rio Rancho.

She recalled that on their first date in March 2004 he had asked her two important questions: Was she a registered voter and was she a Democrat?

" `Good,' " she said he responded when she said yes to both.

"He loved his country and was proud to be an American, more so than anyone I know," the composed young widow said.

That love, and that desire one day to be president, led him to join the Army - and to join the artillery, assuring that he saw fighting in Iraq, she said.

"He wanted to get out there. He wanted to get his boots dirty," she said. "He wanted to go to Iraq."

Akin, a 2001 Valley High School graduate, was assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team based out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

He deployed to Iraq in the fall of 2004.

Syreeta Akin said her husband would ask her to send care packages of wrapped candies and pens, so he could give them to the Iraqi children.

For his service, Akin has received numerous awards, including the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Army Commendation Medal.

Syreeta Akin had asked New Mexico Democrats to attend today's funeral service, and many did.

From the Albequeque Tribune

Related Link:
James C. Akin dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'